Simplicity in user experience design is the one thing we all try to accomplish. The irony is, it’s not simple at all. This is not just because we feel often compelled to add new features, in order to make our product superior. I think the main reason is that even the understanding of simplicity is quite complex.
The Complexity of Simple UX Design
It’s not very difficult to take a simple challenge and create a simple solution. A blank website with just one button is simple, but maybe boring and not valuable at all. The reality is that we seek for rich and satisfying experiences, and with this richness comes complexity. Sometimes we even love this complexity.
Think about games. „Four in a row“, a simple game, „Chess“, a complex game. The complexity of the rules could add immensely to the game and on the other hand could be a reason while many never start to play.
It’s hard to say how much complexity is enough.
Think about daily rituals like making a cup of coffee. For some a complex ceremony of making a perfect coffee adds pleasure and maybe even a sense of membership to a culture, others just seek convenience and some caffeine.
Often the context in which we use something is defining how we perceive the complexity of a tool. If I am hiking through the mountains a Swiss Army Knife is a great simple tool. I don’t prefer it at home in my kitchen though.
Then there are these things that are super complex, but we don’t complain about at all in our daily lives. Think about our language, our alphabet. Writing and reading takes years to master. We don’t mind complexity when it seems appropriate.
Sometimes there are tools that look simple, but to use them actually isn’t.
Take the apparent simplicity of a surfboard or a pair of skis. Anyone who tried to learn these sports will tell you, it’s not simple to use at all. Perceived simplicity is not the simplicity of usage.